Monday, May 19, 2008

Knight right (again)

From Rick Bozich in the C-J...

Bob Knight was right. Yes, I said it, and I'll say it again: Bob Knight was right.

I'm talking about his position that the NBA 2006 rule change requiring high school players to make at least a one-season campus pit stop was one of the worst things to happen to college basketball.

His admirable concern was about academics and integrity -- whatever fading connections big-time college basketball retains to academics and integrity. Knight, the former Indiana and Texas Tech coach, recognized there is absolutely no incentive for any freshman who is interested in leaving school after one season to attend class after securing his second-semester eligibility.

He knew it was better to let the guys eager to be professionals play for a paycheck instead of playing for a flat-screen television while they puff up their marketability.

As the slime continues to ooze from the O. J. Mayo situation at Southern California, it's another reminder that what the world of basketball -- pro and college -- needs is a rule similar to baseball's rule.

In baseball, high school seniors are presented with a simple choice: pro ball or college ball. Take your pick.

Guys that scoff at attending an 8 a.m. psychology class can proceed directly to minor league baseball. Guys who aren't ready to play for pay or who understand an accounting degree might be beneficial one day sign a letter of intent.

Once they do, they are committed to college baseball for three seasons. No team can draft them until they have finished three years on campus.

Basketball has never embraced that sensible idea or created a viable minor league system for kids who have no interest in degrees. Basketball has embraced chaos. That's what we have today.

There are precisely 60 slots in the 2008 NBA draft. There are 69 U.S. college underclassmen trying to squeeze into those 60 slots, headlined by the five one-and-done freshmen: Mayo, Kevin Love of UCLA, Eric Gordon of Indiana, Derrick Rose of Memphis and Michael Beasley of Kansas State.

I wasn't a psychology or accounting major, but my guess is that none of those guys came to school with the idea of earning a degree. They came because the NBA forced them. And the NBA forced them because its popularity was sagging a few years ago.

Its reputation was stained because too many players were trying to jump directly from high school. Many weren't ready to play winning basketball. What's even worse was that few were ready to move product or shake the Nielsen ratings.

So to fix that, why not place them in a one-year holding pattern in college basketball? Let America get to know them better. Give them more TV exposure and national headlines.

But, as Knight said, there's precious little connection between a degree and a year on campus.

Mayo, who played high school basketball in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, chose to play college ball at USC. Actually, that's not true. He chose to play college ball in the massive Los Angeles media market. Never forget that.

Now Mayo is out the door -- and as ESPN's "Outside The Lines" program outlined Sunday, USC and the NCAA are forced to clean up another predictable mess.

But it's not just USC. College coaches everywhere are trying to figure out who's leaving, who's staying and who wants to leave but might be forced to pretend he's a student for another year.

It's madness -- and the NCAA Tournament has been over for five weeks.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home